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{ Turtle Tower } { Monterey Bay Aquarium } { 17-mile Drive } { Sakana } { Taqueria Cancun }

We started at a slower pace the next morning. We were all craving for ph­. Turtle Tower in the Tenderloin district, with its Northern Vietnamese style of cooking, was an appropriate choice. Our ph­ did not come with the more familiar serving of bean sprouts and basil leaves. The noodles are wider and flat. The broth also tasted differently, better than what I'm used to in most Vietnamese places in New York City and Montreal. It was a touch lighter and somehow tasted more pure. I found out later that this Northern style of making ph­ does not involve star anise and other herbs used more in the south. I now must find a Northern Vietnamese restaurant in New York City!

We passed the windmills that dotted the East Bay on our way out from the city, those minimal towering structures that for some reason reminded me of Don Quixote. Almost four hours later we were in Monterey Bay. The Monterey Bay Aquarium and its two hundred galleries and exhibits was overwhelming. I have never seen aquariums on such a scale anywhere else. My favorite was the school of bait fish swimming round and round non-stop overhead.

Rarely-seen jellyfish were eerily floating in large wall-mounted aquariums, suspended in a way that was haunting and memorable. There were also towering three-story aquariums that allowed all of us to see the sea turtles, sharks and barracudas as if we were diving with them. Sea otters were putting on a show for the children in a two-story exhibit. There was also a splash zone where the water would come in waves on glass ceilings above our heads.

In Pebble Beach, we followed the dashed red lines and drove the famous 17 Mile Drive along the coast. Armed with an $8.50 map, we stopped at each of the twelve points of interests and took photographs of the uncomparably beautiful Californian coastline. Our favorite was the Lone Cypress, an enduring California landmark that has been around for over two hundred years.

We oooh-ed and aah-ed at the mansions and villas we imagined were used as sets for hiphop videos. Somewhat absurd was the the tradition or tendency of most property-owners here to name their villas as one would have a vanity plate on a car. After a lengthy discussion Boca de Paradiso won out as being a marginally more classy name for a future seaside pad. It was a bit chilly so we skipped the stroll on Spanish Bay where Don Gaspar de Portola camped in search of Monterey Bay.

The Bird Rock was dotted by countless shorebirds, groups of harbor seals, and sea lions. Their collective sounds echoed across the channel that separted them from the beach.

The Fanshell Overlook's white sand was full of harbor seals cooling off after the pupping season.

Back in San Francisco, dinner was very low-key at Sakana in the Union Square area. Despite its no-frills ambiance, the toro was really good. The boy and I shared the daily specials of abalone, mackerel, yellowfin and uni. We decided to walk over to Cafe Royale for some drinks to end our week-long trip to San Francisco. By one in the morning, after a stroll in Union Square, we hailed a cab to take us back to the Mission. The trip would not have been complete without a stop at Taqueria Cancun on 19th Street. We've already had several beers at the bar but we capped the night with a couple of Pacificos, a chorizo taco, and the and the eternally satisfying house special burrito filled with rice, beans, and carne asada.

Turtle Tower
631 Larkin Street between Ellis and Eddy
San Francisco, CA

Monterey Bay Aquarium
About an hour and a half south of San Francisco via Highway 1

17-mile Drive
Highway 1 south and exit 68 west
Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach

605 Post Street @ Taylor
San Francisco, CA

Taqueria Cancun
2288 Mission Street @ 19th
San Francisco, CA

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